Complex fibrillar networks mediate liquid–liquid phase separation of biomolecular condensates within the cell. Mechanical interactions between these condensates and the surrounding networks are increasingly implicated in the physiology of the condensates and yet, the physical principles underlying phase separation within intracellular media remain poorly understood. Here, we elucidate the dynamics and mechanics of liquid–liquid phase separation within fibrillar networks by condensing oil droplets within biopolymer gels. We find that condensates constrained within the network pore space grow in abrupt temporal bursts. The subsequent restructuring of condensates and concomitant network deformation is contingent on the fracture of network fibrils, which is determined by a competition between condensate capillarity and network strength. As a synthetic analog to intracellular phase separation, these results further our understanding of the mechanical interactions between biomolecular condensates and fibrillar networks in the cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6085
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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